the spy and the dragon | movie reviews

Posted on May 28, 2012


I’ve seen two movies over the last two weeks! It’s not good enough I tell you. The first was the David Fincher remake of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, the other was the 1965 classic ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’.

I have to say that I didn’t think much of TGWTDT. I didn’t think much of the original Swedish version though. I thought the performances were very good – but I’m not a fan of remakes of foreign language movies. You lose something. Here in Fincher’s latest movie, the setting and location are the same, the names are the same and for the most part the accents are ok, others are ropy, and others are absent altogether. Either it’s Swedish or it’s not! All the signs around are in Swedish but the “necessary” text is all conveniently in English. There are some shocking moments in the movie relating to Rooney Mara’s tattooed investigator, the story is very dark, and pretty much every male character is some form of sexual fiend! Frankly I thought it was a bit of a mess and I know that Fincher can do better than this. Maybe it was the source material, maybe it was the fact that it was a remake – or maybe it’s because the story is just too uninteresting, it just didn’t work for me.

However. Richard Burton and co did not disappoint. ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’ is a great movie, and I imagine at the time of its release it threw a bit of a curveball at people. By 1965 the general public had been introduced to Bond… James Bond, through Connery’s role as the British hero in Dr No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball, and grown to love charm and his trademark Martinis [shaken not stirred], pimped cars and gadgets, beautiful women, megalomaniac villains, chases, fights, dramatic near-death escapes etc. So being introduced to these dour serious characters who I feel wouldn’t take a spy like Bond, James Bond seriously if they existed in the same world, must have been the same for audiences back in the 60s as it is for cinemagoers today with the likes of Tom Cruise [MI4] and Gary Oldman [Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy] portraying very different spies.

So what’s the storyline? Burton is Alec Leamas, a spy worn out by what he’s seen and done for so long. We join him when one of his missions at Checkpoint Charlie goes horribly wrong and he is soon summoned back [out of the cold] to Britain for a debriefing. Fully expecting to be reprimanded he is offered a lesser role pushing paper. Needless to say he opts for early retirement and gets a job at a library, where he meets communist Nan Peters [Claire Bloom], and they are deeply attracted to each other.

Shortly after leaving prison, where he spends some time for assaulting a shopkeeper, Alec is approached by Paddington Bear, I mean Michael Hordern, who recruits him for a “worker’s aid organisation”. Alec is again contacted by Control who fills in the rest of the assignment which is linked in some way to his disastrous earlier mission.

If you are the kind of person who loves to chat, fidget, ask constant questions relating to a movie, go constantly to refresh the snack bowls or have to make a toilet trip during a movie then make sure you pause it!  It’s a tricky movie to follow if you don’t pay it the attention it deserves. Miss a scene and you could lose your way completely. Like I said, when it comes to big scenes, and flash effects and thrills, this movie is pretty barren, but it makes up for this in bucketloads. It’s all about the conversations, what’s said and unsaid between characters and you are never too sure if you are watching the bad guys or the good guys. So take a seat and wrap up… It’s cold out there.

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